Dress for Success & Paradigm2Women Empower our Residents to be Professional

Dress for Success

Dress for Success Houston has been helping Houston women attain economic independence by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to women in need since 1988. Saturday April 25th, a group of volunteers from Dress for Success Houston, led by Dorothy Prejean, a Project Manager for 2015’s Community Action Project: Paradigm2Women, helped residents from our treatment and transitional program find their style for success. “It was my honor and privilege to be a part of the planning and execution for the 2015 Community Action Project: ‘Paradigm2Women.’ The pleasure to work with the staff and women at The Women’s Home was very rewarding. I walked away with an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness for the success of the project.” Dorothy said.

The day began bright and early with residents coming in their professional best in outfits donated by Dress for Success the day before. A volunteer provided make-up and hair guidance before residents took professional photos suitable for job applications and business profiles. After photos, the residents were each given a personal introduction and the chance to walk the meeting room runway while volunteers read the residents’ bios to the group. After a brief overview and introduction of the day’s agenda, the residents participated in three educational panels on different subjects including how to re-enter the workforce with confidence, how to present your skills in an interview, and diversity in the workplace.

“The presentations were very informative and I took quite a bit of information from that entire day. Thank you so much for that wonderful opportunity it was greatly appreciated!” Sarah* one of our residents said about CAP day. After the workshops, residents were able to ask questions in a Q & A session. One of the event speakers, Mustafaa Carroll stated, “I was quite impressed by their focus on helping women to become employable, employed, and in effect rebuild their lives. Everything I witnessed from beginning to end was positive, and upbeat.”

The group broke for lunch along with an impromptu dance party before the day closed with a gift raffle and certificates for the days’ participants. The residents enjoyed the dedication of the volunteers and appreciated the information and consideration they received. “They served us and it just felt amazing that they wanted to do it for us. I appreciate each and every one of the volunteers.” Laura*, a resident said of her CAP day experience.

*In order to protect our residents from stigma, names have been changed.

Speaking Out in the Community

Mental Health

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, which began in 1949 as a way to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and bring the voices of those living with mental illness into the conversation. As a part of our dedication to building whole lives, The Women’s Home and our staff are dedicated to speaking out in our community and helping others become ambassadors for mental health in their lives. This May, our highly trained staff have been empowering not only our residents, but also our neighbors in the community to have the courage and the knowledge to combat misinformation about mental health and become active advocates for supportive care and treatment.

One of our Clinical and Chemical Dependency Counselor’s, Theresa Allen, spoke on the impact of domestic violence on the lives of women and their mental health at the Her VOICE: Ladies Leading Ladies’ The Secret is Out…Now What? 1st Annual Community Luncheon Fundraiser in April. Shana D. Lewis, the Executive Director and founder of Her VOICE, hoped that attendees of the luncheon would leave “with the conviction that it is your duty to recognize, act, and respond to domestic violence.” Domestic violence affects the lives of 1 in 5 women according to Her VOICE’s research, and the ensuing trauma can have lasting effects and increase the risk for mental illness and addiction. Theresa explained to luncheon guests the cyclical effect domestic abuse can have, how people recognize warning signs and what can be done to intervene safely, and how The Home’s treatment and transitional housing program works with residents to break the cycle of abuse and build healthy relationships as a part of their recovery.

May 16, 2015, our Director of Programs, Katherine Broussard-Barner spoke specifically on the challenges and issues surrounding women’s mental health at the Omicron Gamma Zeta Chapter (OGZ) of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. Sorority’s annual scholarship luncheon, Parade of Salads. OGZ chose mental health as the focus of their luncheon because of the increased coverage of mental illness in the media and the rising urgency for awareness and treatment. Mental health ties into Zeta Phi Beta, Inc.’s national Z-Hope program which encourages local chapters to address and serve the needs in their community. OGZ asked Katherine to be their luncheon speaker after learning about The Women’s Home and Katherine’s expertise on mental health through the Houston Walk for Mental Health Awareness.

“We hope to inspire those in attendance to be ambassadors in the community on educating those within their circle on understanding what mental illness is, the agencies available to assist those in need, and a compassion to help those in need get treatment.” OGZ Second Vice President Adrian Hunt said regarding the goal of the luncheon.

Katherine shared the mission and vision of The Women’s Home and detailed not only the work we do in serving women with our treatment and transitional housing program, but also our supportive housing complex Jane Cizik Garden Place (JCGP) in Spring Branch and our two current projects: a housing facility for families and the WholeLife® Service Center which will be down the street from JCGP.

On mental health, Katherine discussed our need as a community to address our fear of mental illness and those who live with it, to move beyond our apprehension of the unknown and approach mental health with compassion and the desire to learn to help not hide. She discussed how women are more often diagnosed with mental illness, for a number of reasons, including women’s higher exposure to trauma as well as how gender bias means lower diagnosis of illnesses like depression in men. She addressed how the stigma those with mental illness face is fed by misconceptions that those with mental illnesses are violent or a danger to the community, rather than the reality that 1 in 5 Americans live with mental illness.

She encouraged attendees be supportive of loved ones living with mental illness and respond to their diagnosis with the same compassion and empathy they might show if it was another chronic condition such as diabetes. Katherine also stressed the importance of listening, of starting conversations not just about mental illness and treatment, but with those living with a mental illness. “We all have a story, we all have a past. Some of our stories are more packed than others, we have to be willing to listen to individuals and unpack their stories.”


TWH Residents Experience Fun and Exciting Events Thanks to Miller Outdoor Theatre, Alley Theatre & TUTS

Miller Theater May 14

The growing efforts of The Women’s Home are all tied together by our comprehensive and very effective WholeLife? model, which addresses the emotional / mental, physical, social, spiritual, vocational, and financial wellness of our clients and residents.

Of course, there are many aspects to social wellness, but some of the more fun and exciting happenings for our residents come as they attend various community theater and arts events.  Says Crystal, a recent graduate of The Home, “The generosity of donors that allowed us to go to cultural events was incredible.  It helped us to appreciate social settings and interact in true life situations again.”

One such outing will be over Memorial Day weekend, at the annual Dancin’ in the Street…Motown and more at Miller Outdoor Theatre.  A holiday tradition for many Houstonians and tourists, this soul-stirring revue has been a staple in the Miller Outdoor Theatre production season for over 18 years.  Dancin’ in the Street features many of Houston’s most talented vocalists and dancers, accompanied by the Bacement Soul Orchestra.

This year, The Cottage Shop staff worked with the producers of the exciting production by providing costuming for the sets of classic Motown hits.  Brilliant gowns and accessories from The Shop will be featured in many of the finger-popping numbers.  In exchange, the residents will be treated to great seats, down front and ushered in like VIP’s.  The Women’s Home will be listed as one of the main sponsors for the event, giving the agency exposure to an enormous group of fun-loving, community-minded, soulful Houstonians.


Another partnership is with the Alley Theatre and their community outreach brnch called AlleyWays.  Incredible and deeply discounted group ticket purchases have allowed our residents to be front and center every year for A Christmas Carol, often with enough tickets to include family guests.  There is always another performance where staff accompanies our lucky ladies to see some of Houston’s finest theatre.  Just as a note, the outreach will be suspended while the Alley undergoes exciting and inviting renovations for the 2014-2015 season.


And we can’t forget TUTS and their generous invitations to see first-rate musicals that leave our residents glowing.  Performances of Man of La Mancha, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Meet Me in St. Louis have all been part of the broad selection.

La Maison Apartments Clean House for The Cottage Shop

Interior garage sale, housewares, clothing, slorting goods and toys.

Spring is a season of renewal, a time to take stock and clear away the clutter of the past year, making it perfect timing for La Maison Apartment’s monthly giving event to partner with The Women’s Home’s Cottage Shop. The beginning of spring marks the time when many of its 400-plus residents clean house, getting rid of everything from clothing to small household items. So what better charity to donate to than The Women’s Home’s Cottage Shop?

When the staff sent the announcement for tenants to clean out their closets and bring donations to the downstairs office, La Maison wasn’t sure what they would receive. But on the day of the Spring Donation Drive, the response was positive. La Maison’s Sunday afternoon Spring Cleaning Drive proved to be a huge success. Bags and bags of clothing filled a room, stuffed with clothes, purses, coats and much much more. There were even small items like lamps and frames collected.

La Maison is a luxury apartment community nestled in River Oaks, with many of its tenants are urban professionals. We are so grateful for Apartment communities like La Maison for donation drives like these.

If you live in an apartment community, we would love to hear from you on how we can help set up a similar drive for your apartment neighbors. Please contact Chau Nguyen, Manager of Community Involvement at cnguyen@thewomenshome.org or at 713-328-1950.

What is Brown Bag?

Michael Pearce

Michael Pearce, one of our January Brown bag speakers

Having healthy connections to resources and role models in our community is an important aspect of our WholeLife Program. In our treatment and transitional housing program we foster community involvement with our residents every Friday through our Brown Bag Luncheons. Fridays at noon, our treatment and transitional housing residents bring their sack lunches and gather in the upstairs conference room of our 607 Westheimer office to hear presentations by different speakers each week. Our wide variety of speakers vary from individuals who have valuable insights or resources for our clients, to organizations providing important information on subjects such as physical wellness, job interview skills, or credit management.

One of our recurring speakers is The Women’s Fund for Health Education and Resilience whose representatives talk on a variety of health, nutrition and wellness subjects. One of our January speakers, Michael Pearce, an attorney with Schlumberger, shared struggles and triumphs from his own life covering dealing with recovery from alcoholism as well as his struggles with body image and coming to terms with his sexuality. In February, Lisa Feronda talked about how running became a form of therapy for her and that leaving her position as a news anchor for channel 11 helped her find her purpose with her current work at Legacy Community Health Services. In April one of our speakers, Pierre Silvy shared insights he’s gained about customer service after over 50 years working in the hair salon industry.

The Women’s Home is always looking for insightful, engaging and empathetic speakers for our Brown Bag lunches. If you are interested or know someone who would be a good fit, please contact our Volunteer & Collaborations Coordinator Jenna Jackson at jjackson@thewomenshome.org or 713-568-1356 for more information.

Welcome Development Assistant Heather Almond!

heather photo Cropped

The Women’s Home is thrilled to welcome our newest development team member, Heather Almond!  Heather has been hired as a development assistant to work on our reNew & reDo Fashion Event.  She will start in mid-June.

Her position is made possible, thanks to a grant through Exxon Mobil’s Community Jobs Program and coordinated by Volunteer Houston.  Each summer, Exxon Mobil awards grants to local non-profits seeking to hire summer interns.  This is the third summer our Home has been awarded this grant.  Heather was carefully selected among a pool of more than 200 college applicants.

As a development assistant, Heather’s duties include anything and everything that has to do with the preparation, planning and execution of our Fashion event. Heather is a rising junior at Washington and Lee University majoring in psychology, but her roots are here in Houston. She is a graduate of Episcopal High School, graduating Magna Cum Laude.  Heathers says her love of fashion coupled with her desire to learn about non-profits make this the perfect internship for her!

We look forward to having Heather join us soon!

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Brownie Scout Troop 24053 visits The Cottage Shop

Brownies Outside 1

The Brownie Scouts outside The Cottage Shop

Getting an early start in giving back to the wider community is an important opportunity for growing girls and recently The Cottage Shop was able to give that experience to Brownie Scout Troop 24053. The troop, led by Desire Witherspoon a 2010 graduate of our treatment program and Troop 24053’s leader, spent the day volunteering to earn the Philanthropist badges. Desire, who lives in our supportive housing apartment complex, Jane Cizik Garden Place and works as one of the select staff members of Alcoholics Anonymous, immediately thought of The Home after explaining the meaning of philanthropy to her scouts. “I defined philanthropy to them as the practice of giving your time, talent, or treasure for benefit of the common good.” She contacted our Shop Manager, Cheri Barton, to schedule a volunteer and tour time for her daughter’s troop.

The Brownie Scouts toured our facilities at 811 Westheimer, where Desire’s photo proudly hangs among our graduate pictures. They assisted other volunteers in sorting and hanging clothing, their own donations among the items. “I asked each girl to bring a small donation and they got to witness the transition from an item being dropped off to being processed in to being put on the floor for retail. Cheri was extremely patient and very informative.” Desire said.

The girls were curious to learn the ins and outs of The Cottage Shop as well as The Home. “Those litter girls were full of questions. They wanted to start volunteering now!” Cheri said.

Thank you to Desire for introducing Brownie Scout Troop 24053 to The Women’s Home and reminding us that giving back has no age limit!

Reaching Out to the Community

Terrace March 15

A card made by one of our Jane Cizik Garden Place residents

Terrace United Methodist Church is an outreach driven congregation in the Spring Branch community. The members of the church have faithfully volunteered with Jane Cizik Garden place since the complex opened its doors in 2010. A group of volunteers organized by Associate Pastor Tammy Heinrich have made the residents at Jane Cizik Garden Place a part of their community of caring by hosting a monthly ladies’ night for residents. This volunteer work provides a meaningful outreach of faith for all involved.

The Ladies’ Nights, which rotate through a variety of activities each month, provide attendees the chance to take time out of their week to relax and have fun in the company of friends. The events include things like spa night, where residents can get their nails done or enjoy a facial, game night where everyone enjoys snacks while playing, and craft night where volunteers provide instructions and supplies for making a seasonal project. The five person volunteer team work together to plan the events and on average a group of ten Jane Cizik Garden Place residents come each month.

Tammy recruited volunteers for the group after hearing about the plans for Jane Cizik Garden Place from Santa Maria Hostel, a Spring Branch area addiction treatment facility for women. Tammy was already familiar with The Women’s Home from Terrace working with Santa Maria, whose clients sometimes transfer to our treatment and transitional housing program. Tammy gathered like-minded volunteers who wanted to reach out and provide a supportive fun space for our residents. After Tammy helped get the group started, the five volunteers who run Jane Cizik Garden Places’ ladies night now organize themselves.

The volunteers get as much from the Ladies’ nights as our residents. One volunteer, who puts her creative skills to use planning the craft nights, reported to Tammy that she has “developed a relationship with the residents and feels connected with them, she loves seeing the residents laugh, enjoy themselves and relax just walking in.”

While Ladies Night is the main service Terrace provides our residents, they also offer a Sunday shuttle to church services for anyone without transportation who would like to attend. Additionally the congregation is hosting a Lifeskills Retreat on March 28th for women looking for advice on dressing for success, job interview skills, and pursuing education. The planning and dedication of organizations like Terrace United Methodist Church enrich the lives of our residents and connects Jane Cizik Garden Place with the Spring Branch community.

This Crawfish Season Support Physical Wellness

Crawfish Toiletry Flyer 15

Access to basic hygiene and body maintenance products is a fundamental part of maintaining good physical health that people often take for granted. The high costs of even basic hygiene products like deodorant and shampoo as well as the lack of available facilities to practice a hygiene routine while homeless means many of our residents come to The Women’s Home after long periods of neglect.  Supplying our residents the means to care for and restore their physical wellbeing and appearance is an important part of enabling them to rebuild their self-confidence and happiness. This means not only supplying basic hygiene products and over the counter medicines but also fitness clothing and equipment like shoes, joint braces, exercise videos and pedometers. An important need for many of our residents of color that we appreciate help acquiring is hair treatment products such as conditioning hair oils and hair relaxers.

This year’s Crawfish Boil season has broken records in terms of sponsorship and attendance and we want to use this good energy to bolster our resident’s physical health. We ask your help in supporting our residents’ physical wellness needs, a donation of just ten dollars can help us supply physical health products for our residents. Donors who wish to drop off items can bring them to our administrative office at 607 Westheimer Road from now until March 28. Crawfish Boil guests can bring cash or item donations to West Alabama Ice House the day of the Crawfish Boil. We’ve collected a list of needed products with suggested brand names for donors who wish to bring in items, or want to start a drive at work or with an organization they’re active with.

Meet our Newest Board Members!

In January, The Women’s Home Board of Directors welcomed five new members to service. The Board of Directors is the governing body of The Home. They are responsible for financial oversight and leadership, strategic direction of programs and services, stewardship of our resources and the advisory tasks of insuring that the mission and vision are carried out at the highest quality levels. In addition, they provide leadership for strategic direction and growth. Comprised of leaders in our community who show a commitment to service and passion for The Home’s mission, new members of the board are selected for review by our Governance Committee and elected by the Directors. The Women’s Home is excited to introduce the newest members of our board.

AmyABoardPhotoAmy Absher is general manager for the Technology, Strategy & Services (TSS) organization of Chevron’s Information Technology Company (ITC), Amy Absher is accountable for IT strategy and planning, organizational design and capability management, portfolio management, communications, supplier management and operational excellence. A native of Oklahoma, Amy earned a BS in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University in 1985 and joined Chevron that same year as an auditor in the company’s international auditing department. Since beginning her career at Chevron, Amy has held numerous positions, including chief information officer for Global Supply & Trading, general manager of Chevron’s Global Aviation Americas Region and manager of Application Operations in the Process, Applications & Data Assets organization of ITC. She is a member of Chevron’s IT Function Leadership team and the IT Extended Management team. She serves on the IVI, PIDX and Intel advisory boards. In addition to her board position with The Women’s Home, she is also a board member of the Houston Aids Foundation.

Leslie ForestierLeslie D. Forestier began her career working in the engineering and construction industry in accounting and contract administration. She switched to the nonprofit world and joined the Houston Museum of Natural Science as its chief financial officer in 1997. Later joining the management of the Houston Zoo, Leslie has been the chief financial officer there since 2003. She is responsible for the financial operations and oversight of the organization as well as managing the accounting and purchasing departments.Leslie has a BS degree in Mathematics from Loyola University of the South in New Orleans and also attended the University of Houston. She became a CPA in 1981.Leslie joins our Board of Directors after serving on our Finance and Special Events Committees. She also volunteers with the Houston Marathon and has volunteered with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for 10 years.

Lynda HancockLynda Hancock supports the origination and project development process for Williams, a multibillion dollar midstream natural gas and pipeline company. Prior to joining Williams, she worked with Texaco (Chevron) and Lone Star Gas (Atmos Energy). Lynda received her BBA and MBA at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. She has over 25 years of experience as an energy professional in the natural gas industry, serving in a variety of capacities. Her areas of expertise include commercial contract negotiations, risk management, business development, joint venture management and corporate training. Lynda is an active member of Chapelwood United Methodist Church, where she serves on the Ministry Council; the Board of Stewards; and the Mercy Street’s Women’s Council.

Charles O'COnnelCharles J. O’Connell, a Marlborough, Massachusetts, native and Boston College graduate, Charlie O’Connell began his banking career with a predecessor of Bank of America in Boston. In 1996 Houston became home for Charlie, his wife Marilee and their sons Andy and David when he was appointed president and CEO of Bank One Houston. Upon the JPMorgan Chase acquisition of Bank One in 2004, Charlie oversaw commercial banking merger integrations in Texas as executive vice president of Chase Bank Texas, N.A. He retired in 2006.Volunteerism and community involvement have been important to Charlie throughout his career and in retirement. He has served as a board member for nonprofits focused on human services, the arts, economic development and philanthropy. He served for six years as Games director and chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Special Olympics Texas Statewide Summer Games. He is a former board chair of Central Houston, Inc. and the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County. He has also served on the boards of the Greater Houston Partnership, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Houston Ballet and the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts.In addition to his place on The Women’s Home Board of Directors, Charlie currently serves on the board of Central Houston, Inc.In addition to his place on The Women’s Home Board of Directors, Charlie currently serves on the Board of Central Houston, Inc.

Laura McWilliams began her career in international banking with Bank of America in 1980, moving to Texas Commerce bank (Amegy Bank) and ultimately to Southwest Bank of Texas in 1994 to start its international banking department. She retired from Amegy Bank in 2007. Laura received her undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin and holds an MA from Vanderbilt University and another from the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advance International Studies. Prior to her banking work, she was commissioned as a U.S. Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Department of State, where she worked in the Project Department for Southeast Asia. In Houston, Laura has served on the boards of the Houston World Affairs Council, the Asia Society, the Houston Committee on Foreign Relations and L’Alliance Francaise; she is a member of the national board of the Bankers Association for Trade and Finance. In addition to her membership on The Women’s Home Board of Directors, she serves in the Houston Salvation Army’s Auxiliary Guild and is active with other local groups such as the Houston Grand Opera.